The many faces of "prima facie": group-based evidence in refugee status determination

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Date: Fall 2008
From: Refuge(Vol. 25, Issue 2)
Publisher: Centre for Refugee Studies, York University
Document Type: Report
Length: 10,861 words

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The majority of the world's refugees have secured a legal status without resort to an individual examination of their claims. The practice of "group" determination, particularly in Africa, is interesting in several aspects, not least in that it allows a real-time assessment of a need for international protection. While these positive aspects should not be lost as man): jurisdictions in the developing world are equipping themselves with individual asylum procedures, it is equally important to clarify, and hopefully to harmonize, the procedural and evidentiary standards applicable to group determination.

How presumptions operate--including their rebuttal or removal--is a question worth examining, and not only with regard to refugee status determination (RSD) in mass influx situations. Legal presumptions and other evidentiary shortcuts have also been introduced into individual RSD procedures in industrialized states. These include mechanisms that are highly problematic from a protection point of view, such as the "safe country of origin" presumption of a "manifestly unfounded" claim. However, administrative bodies and courts have also, from time to time, used some form of prima facie admission of evidence in order to lighten the burden of asylum applicants, while speeding up the RSD process.

Furthermore, this article argues that extralegal presumptions, based on implicit value judgments about national or subnational groups, almost invariably colour the interviewing and decision-making processes in individual cases. This finding makes it all the more necessary : to (i) to re-assess the significance of "risk-group affiliation" as an element of the refugee definition; and (ii) formally recognize the role of evidentiary shortcuts in RSD, and recommend appropriate standards for their operation.


La majorite des refugies du monde ont obtenu un statut legal sans examen individuel de leurs revendications. La pratique de la determination collective de la qualite de refugie, particulierement en Afrique, est interessante par plusieurs aspects, non des moindres etant qu'elle permet une evaluation << en temps reel >> du besoin de la protection internationale. Bien qu'il soit important de ne pas perdre de vue ces aspects positifs--alors que beaucoup de juridictions dans les pays en voie de developpement adoptent des procedures de determination du droit d'asile au niveau individuel--il est egalement important d'eclaircir, et aussi peut-etre d'harmoniser, les normes en matiere de procedures et en matiere d'element de preuve applicables a la determination collective.

Comment fonctionnent les presomptions--y compris leur refutation--est une question qui vaut la peine d'etre etudiee de plus pres, et cela pas seulement dans le contexte de la Determination du statut de refugie (DSR) dans des situations de mouvement collectif. La presomption legale et les raccourcis en matiere de regles de preuve ont aussi ete introduits dans des procedures de DSR individuel dans les pays industrialises. Parmi, on retrouve certains mecanismes qui posent probleme d'un point de vue de la protection, tel la presomption de << revendication manifestement non fondee >> dans des cas de << pays sans risque >>. D'autre part, des entites administratives et des tribunaux ont aussi, de temps a autre, fait usage d'une forme quelconque d'admission de...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A229302926